Trip Start Mar 23, 2009
27Trip End Jul 23, 2009
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There were dozens of, mostly men, milling around outside, pondering over what can best be described as an eclectic mix of lots. Farm machinery, back hoes (used to dig trenches girls), trucks, trailers, timber, sheds, skidoos etc etc, you get the picture.
We wandered round inside, past the oversized catering equipment, the furniture (there was a very nice wooden seat that would have looked great on a porch) the innumerable tools, the boxes of xmas decorations, rope, all manner of electricals the children's fairground ride - I kid you not! etc etc. Taking a closer look outside Malc found a canoe, some air conditioning units and army generator
This was definitely a place where you could buy almost anything - there was even some brand new hampers packed with chocolates...
However; known as we are for our frugality, not to mention the fact that we have no use for most of this stuff, we left empty handed. But it had been an interesting experience.
In the afternoon we paid a visit to some friends of Trish's, who have a sugar house... apologies to readers who are familiar with this next bit, but to us this was something quite new. Do you like Maple Syrup? Do you wonder why the real stuff is fairly pricey? Actually it's expensive in the UK. Well when I tell you that it takes 50 gallons of sap from a maple tree to make 1 gallon of syrup it might begin to explain why. We had missed seeing this process in Canada because we had left just before the collection began; the temperatures have to be just right with cool nights and just a little warmth during the day for the sap to rise. Too warm and the stuff don't rise. Add to this the fact that any hole you make in the tree cannot be used again, the scar tissue prevents the sap from flowing back to that point and there can only be one hole per 8" tree. So a tree with an 8" diameter can support one hole, a 16" one two holes and so on. All in all it seems a very tedious business, but I'm very glad they persevere 'cos the finished product is delicious as I'm sure you'll agree.
So first the sap is collected, sometimes in individual buckets, sometimes lines are directed to a larger vessel.
Next the sap is collected from here and taken to the sugar house - The Black Mountain Sugar house that we visited, collects from about 650 trees.
The sap is fed into the house where it travels through copper pipes that run over the vats that contain the boiling sap, as this evaporates the steam produced kind of pre heats the sap in the pipes, so it isn't so cold.
The vats are heated on top of a wood fired stove so you get the comforting wood fire mingling with the sweet steam, a comforting mix of smells.
The sap in the vat is boiled and boiled and therefore reduced, this can take several hours. It changes colour from clear to the rich amber we know and love.
When it reaches the correct consistency/temperature it is drawn off.
At Black Mt. the biggest single draw was a bit over 6 gallons. (So that means they started with 300!!)
I have described the process, but have in no way done justice to the science behind it all and for that I apologize to the syrup producers. You can find out all about general production and some recipes here: http://maple.dnr.cornell.edu/tour/index.htm The whole production is state monitored and that way you know you get a prime quality product - still think it's expensive? I know one thing...it's yum!